Lassen Volcanic National Park

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I fled from the flames and entered the mouth of a volcano as I crossed into Lassen Volcano National Park.  The smoke of the blazing redwoods of northwestern California dispersed behind me as I made miles through the devastated scenery along Lassen Volcanic National Park Highway.  At the time, I had no idea that I was about to encounter an eruption of unexpected Happenings. The foreshadowed metaphor was not lost but for now it simply lay unrecognized as I meandered through boulder-strewn fields and intermittent barren patches of landscape that still bore the scars of a geologically recent eruption.

Lassen Peak is the largest plug dome volcano in the world and it has been rather active if we consider at least one eruption in the last one-hundred years.  Not to mention numerous major and minor eruptions occurring routinely for hundreds more beyond as the Gorda plate dives deeper beneath the North American Plate.  Then we must account for the actual geothermal activity evidenced in areas of the park such as Bumpass Hell.  Here, hot springs, fumaroles and mud pots act as the main-vein ventilation of Mount Tehama.  With four additional  shield volcanos within the park boundaries. The Lassen area possesses a treasure trove of geologic phenomenon and largely unpredictable potential.  All of which present a strong argument for a good insurer should your home be located nearby.

I rucked the seven round-trip miles to the Devils Kitchen and took in the Martian landscape that closely resembled Yellowstone National Park.  The ground was crunchy and bleached pale with tones of yellow from the sun and Sulfur.  Mud pots and mini geysers frothed and hissed as they spewed about acidic muck.  A stream crept through it all glistening as it trickled into small algae-filled lakes and pools of turquoise and green.  It was ominous and simultaneously, beautiful.

Early the next morning, I set out on a scenic hike to King Creek Falls.  Around four miles in, just short of a thousand-foot descent, the trail offers up vistas of wild flower-filled meadows, waterfall overlooks and a steep creek-edge trail.  I took in the crisp morning air as I kept an ear out for black bear and cougar.  Running my hand along the ferns that draped into the trail, I was enveloped by that familiar feeling of discovering some place new.  I had an intense feeling of being alive. Of being part of the landscape. I settled onto a large boulder and the base of the falls. The scene was still and peaceful apart from the turbulence of the falling water which had its own lulling effect. I spent quite some time here, in the company of silence, feeling the surging wind plucking plumes of mist from plummeting droplets.

The following afternoon I drove out to Lake Helen and grabbed a few photographs.  The weather was overcast, and I was unable to get off a satisfactory shot of Lassen Peak.  I thought there would be another opportunity as I had several days left in the park before heading towards Yosemite.  I scrapped the day to explore a few shorter trails.  I would rather adventure in the woods over an unproductive footage-day by a roadside lake.  I was cramp deep into the hike when I crested a ridge and must have passed a random wave of signal as I heard the familiar chime of incoming text.  I stared at screen and upon attempting to respond, found no signal, warranting an impromptu trail run and ball hauling maneuver back into reasonable cell range.  The text was from Nashville and simply said “call…its urgent”.  It took two miles of panting like an exhausted dog to get off the trail and another twenty-minute drive to get to a reasonable signal.  A subsequent phone call and I was promptly on the road, rig and all, heading back to Nashville.

Ruck’in it home…


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